Language is not a writing system!

Okay, so this subject has been on my mind recently.  There’s so many simpletons out there that proclaim that Chinese and Japanese are much harder to learn than Korean. Sorry. You’re wrong. Korean is far harder to learn.

Korean does have the simpler writing system. That’s true.

But the reality is, that the sounds of Korean will set you far back than any writing system. Language is about sound and meaning. If you don’t have that covered first, you’re going to have trouble understanding what you read anyways.

Japanese on the other hand is extremely simple to learn. The sounds of Japanese only have a few real trip ups here and there. The Grammar, however is a lot more complex and is very similar to Korean in many respects.

Also, Japanese has many different registers (how you talk, what words you use depending on your relationship to the person you’re speaking to). Korean also has many registers and some verbs change completely (not just morphed) depending on the register. That’s quite tough.

I got really angry one time in my Korean class when a student said in an example that Japanese is much harder to learn than Korean. And while I agree that it’s hard to learn Japanese in Korea, their reasoning was the writing system.

NOPE! That’s not the language! That’s a representation of the language.

If you learn to pronounce the Hangeul in a week, you still won’t be able to understand Curious George in Korean.

A writing system is not a language! A language is a collection of sounds and meaning. Noam Chomsky would also point out that it actually developed through the evolution of human thought, not just for communication.

But, I didn’t want to seem like an old grump and argue with the class or the teacher who agreed with the student. To no fault of her own, she’s not learned Japanese and therefore doesn’t really know. Also, she doesn’t have a point of view from a native English speaker. And most teachers don’t teach phonics or barely remember how the mouth produces sounds from their university courses.

Japanese only looks hard from the characters. But the characters are not the language. Pick your fights, right? One thing I did learn in Korea was not to embarrass people even if they are dead wrong or simply don’t know better.

Did you know that you can teach without a textbook and through speech and context alone?

So why not use that? Learning just like you learned to speak English first (or your other mother tongue). You didn’t learn to write or read first, did you?

Textbooks are far easier on the teacher, and those methods of speech and heavy CI are very intensive for the teacher. With texts and books, the teacher can just say “Do this page for homework.” Speech and CI take lots of preparation.

Pimsleur CD’s took a lot of hours to make and that’s an audio only method. The method is also quite effective.

Now, where was I?

Ah, Chinese!

Yes, Chinese is even harder than Japanese with many more ideograms than Japanese.The Chinese characters fit together logically. But again we are talking about the writing system.

Also, the sounds of the language are more different from English compared to Korean. So in those respects Chinese is harder.

You know why Chinese is easy for English speakers?

The grammar is quite similar to English. More so than Japanese or Korean. And this is a huge help in getting into the greater depths of the language. However it is also different in many areas, so it’s not like Chinese has no grammar learning curve.

Anyways, that’s my venting for the day. Try to calmly explain to people why Japanese and Chinese aren’t really that hard to learn even though they say you can read Korean “In a morning.” That of course is true of a focused student, but you won’t remember how to read it unless you practice for a good month. And you’ll be slow as beans until after another 3 to 6 months. And even then, you won’t have acquired much vocabulary to make sense of most things you’ll see that are longer than a few sentences outside of a textbook.


GMS Korean: Day 4

Today seemed a little daunting. The first few sentences were pairs of phrases that go together. But honestly, It wasn’t that much more difficult. And it didn’t really have a lot. But I’m glad that it’s slowing getting more and more complex. And also, I’m getting lots of practice with simple and functional things. This is how real Koreans speak. And you’ll get a lot of different registers. It’s just like how Korean is. There’s no other way to put it.

I took a 5 minute break halfway through the dictation and right after the dictation as well. After recording, I feel alright. But I didn’t want to do the recording today. However, I went through it slowly and I went over the harder parts. I see an improvement for sure. I’ve decided to listen to the GSR right before I go to bed.

That’s all for now. Here’s a sample of today’s practice.

GMS Korean: Day 3

Today I started a little bit earlier and had more time to practice the sentences and record my voice. I feel the hard things are becoming easier for me. I’m also discovering things that I was confident on are not as developed as I would like.

I was a little unmotivated today. When I was studying Korean I kept telling myself it would only be an hour and I could get back to hacking away on Anki with Japanese. But once I broke into the book, it was quite fun. I felt things going quicker, and I could pick out the words better from the native speaker.

I have been learning Korean off and on for a while now, so I couldn’t tell you if a beginner would have the same results on the third day. I don’t think a beginner could get through the first 50 by the third day. Though I can’t call myself an intermediate. My lexus is very limited at best.

Anyways, today it took me around 24 minutes to do dictation. This is quite a bit shorter than yesterday. That’s where I noticed the most gains. But hey, it’s only day 3. I just hadn’t written Korean in a while so that’s why it took me so long on the first couple of days.

Here’s today’s recording. I still have that throat thing like everyone else around this area. And also, I’m a still a bit tired. After listening to the recording I can see where my pronunciation is off. 배고파 sounds like 배고바 :/

But the one thing I did do this time was very useful. I took a walk right after dictation. Just a short walk down the road and picked myself up a can of tea.

Taking a break is crucial to learning. I watched a youtube video with a professor on how to study. He said you need to take a 5 minute break for every 25 minutes of study. Otherwise your attention and focus fall dramatically.

I’ll keep these breaks in mind tomorrow. 🙂

GMS Korean: Day 2

GlossikaKoreanToday I did the mass sentences a little bit later than yesterday. I started around 7pm and ended a little at 8:25.

I’ll admit I did the recording when I was a little bit tired. Also, my throat is all blocked up with phlegm. Yummy!

I’ll have to take back what I said about the sentences being too casual with little regard to register. It switches between many different registers, so you get used to saying different ones at different times. I was just surprised to see 이야 and 이다. I hear it all the time, but I rarely read it in a Korean textbook. Especially at the start.

Glossika does seem to be more realistic about how people actually speak.

Here’s my embarrassing recording for today. YAY! I mean, it’s not terrible.. but oh geeze do I sound tired and slow. Yuck!

GMS Korean: Day 1

GlossikaKoreanI just finished today’s study block for the Glossika Mass Sentence course for Korean. I feel kind of tired right now.

What did I do?

From 5:03 – 5:13pm I listened to the sentences while looking over the pdf.

Then I did dictation and went over all of them again until 5:50. This was the slowest and hardest part. I found myself making lots of mistakes, but I understood my mistakes. Korean isn’t always written like how it is actually pronounce. There are many words that you simply must know and can’t just write it down without knowing the spelling.

After dictation I listened to the GSR Day 1 until 5:56.

And then I read over a few more things in the PDF to see what to do next and set up my recording software to record my voice. Before I recorded, I went over the whole GMS day 1 again and tried to mimic/shadow the Korean. Then I recorded. I did it three times, but I kept the 2nd one. By the third one I was way too tired and quit half way.

Looking back on today’s work, I should take short breaks between each step. I shouldn’t plow through the whole thing, or I’ll burn out.

Here’s my recording for today. Not bad, but I know where a lot of my mistakes are. I still have trouble with ㅡ ㅓ and ㅗ sometimes.

Glossika Mass Sentences: Korean


I have recently acquired the Glossika Mass Sentences course for Korean, and pre-ordered (at a special price) the Japanese version too.

I find it quite impressive. It’s sentence drilling that’s finely structured. I’m finding that some of the sentences are very conversational based. You have to be careful to use the right register in Korean, but honestly, I know how to use the right register. That’s not my problem. My problem is fluency and also vocabulary. With a fluency first attitude, this course comes roaring in with guns blazing.

This course is not for beginners. It’s definitely for those who’ve had a few language courses or at least a year or two of self study in Korean.  If you can read Korean quickly, it’s even better. If not, it seems not be a problem, but I don’t have that perspective to make that claim.

In the course he gives you a few ways to drill yourself. And also, he gives you a spaced repetition track to for the sentences. He encourages dictation and substitution drills on the GSM. There are is a A, B, and C track for each group of sentences. The A track is a straight up English and Korean pair. Track B has the pair with a space in between which is perfect for interpreting and checking. And finally, there is a straight up Korean only track.

I finished reading the intro to the course in the PDF and I’ll start tomorrow while writing about the experience. It should be interesting. It shouldn’t take a little more than an hour of my time per day, but I think I’ll find out for sure tomorrow.

What’s gonna happen to my Japanese?

Well, I’m not going to abandon Japanese either. Infact, most of my study time will be spent on Japanese. But I’m thinking of restructuring my study a little smarter. This GSM has given me some more motivation. There’ll be more on that tomorrow.

German Volume Update: Dropping Korean

Yesterday was day 22 of Korean, and Day 4 of Japanese.

I want to say thanks to those who commented on the last post.

I did some thinking and after a few days of doing both languages I have to say doing both languages at the same time is quite stressful. Ain’t gonna lie.

The good news is, my Korean writing seems to have dramatically improved. My writing has gotten a lot faster and a lot more accurate. I’ve been keeping it up with at least an hour a day with the German Volume Method, and a half hour with Pimsleur.

And now with great regret, I know that I have to focus on one language. I dearly love Korean and it is extremely useful to me now. However, I can’t pretend that I am going to continue on with the volume method throughout the year for Korean. My plans are to be in Japan next August. I’m going to need Japanese. In Japan Korean is almost useless. And knowing a very basic level of Korean is even more useless.

It is like Clugston said, this German Volume method is not for people who want to play with the language. It’s for serious people who have the time to put in to achieve serious results. It is like taking an intensive course at a University program like Yonsei. (The Yonsei Program is of the famous ones, but there are others just like it all around Korea).

I did finish 2 hours of Japanese with the Volume Method last night, and 1.5 hours of extensive reading. I was a zombie at the end. I have to start reading earlier.

I just realized that I did 5 hours of studying Korean and Japanese yesterday. And the previous day I did 5.5 hours. And I went to the gym. And I went to work. So… All of my energy just went out. The next morning I woke up on the floor feeling like an old rusty bicycle that hasn’t been picked up in years. It was hard to get moving.

My Study Space

Here is my study space. As you can see no computer. So no distractions. On the shelf you can see my textbooks on the left and my graded readers and easy reading material on the right. On the desk is Heisig’s RTK 1 and 3. And the textbook on the bookstand is Genki 1. 一生懸命頑張ります!

On top of this, I have to somehow figure out how I’m going to get back on studying Kanji. I have some very powerful books to start learning. I got my old copies of Remembering the Kanji 1 and 3 sent over from America last week. And I also have the new and beautiful KanjiPro book.

Chances are I’m going to get started with Kanji Pro and after a few months, I’ll start on Heisig’s RTK1 and finally move on to RTK3.

I also need to increase the volume that I’m getting from my Japanese textbook. 3 hours if the Volume Method with with an extra 2 hours of extensive reading should work pretty well.

I’ve already seen some amazing results with my Korean in the very short time that I’ve applied this method. Most of all, it’s gotten me to focus and to track my process and what I’m doing. That’s something that a lot of “youtube experts” don’t really talk about much in detail. And honestly, I see why. It’s not the sexiest thing to talk about. Unless there’s this cool hip productivity app everyone is tweeting about. 😛

I love Korea and the Korean language dearly. And I look forward to using it everyday, even at a very limited level which is painful for me. But what’s even more painful is being in Japan and getting my butt kicked in Japanese. 😀

So that’s the final nail. German Volume Method with Japanese only. Not recommended for two languages at the same time if you enjoy your sanity.